Telling Tales out of School October 4, 2013

Tags: fun, film, mfah, and, the

Artist and Glassell Junior School instructor Seth Mittag created this reel of stop-motion videos made by his classes over the years. I sat down with Seth to get some background on these sometimes-dark, often-funny videos and his students, who range in age from 8 to 18.

“The main goals I have are to teach the kids how to make animation; to have a lot of fun; and for about an hour and 15 minutes not have the pressures of being in school or anything else. It’s important to give kids everything they need and get out of the way.”—Seth

What’s the process for making the stop-motion videos in this reel?

1. Start with Nursery Rhymes We all share those stories, so a fairy tale is an easy starting point.
2. Storyboard & Choose Everyone in the class makes up a narrative based on a nursery rhyme. Then we vote on the one we think is the best.
3. Divide & Conquer I treat the class like it’s an animation studio. Everyone gets a job: making the puppets, shooting, editing.

Each story in this reel is an edited-down version of a longer class project video. This reel also includes individual projects, which don’t use ready-made narratives like nursery rhymes.

How do the kids surprise you?

With their creative solutions. As adults, we all carry this editor in our minds that’s very important—otherwise we’d make a lot of awkward mistakes. But part of being able to brainstorm and come up with creative solutions is to have that negative side of you not being in there, acting judgmental. And kids don’t really have that, so they come up with some really crazy ideas.

By how witty and contemporary they can be. There’s a film two boys made that I don’t have anymore. It’s about Steve Jobs, who lives on the moon, and he battles Bill Gates. Here I am telling them “Let’s make a film about the Three Little Pigs,” and the kids are like, “No, let’s make Steve Jobs versus Bill Gates.”